The Great Gatsby Goes to Washington.

May 7, 2013

"So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past."
- F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

. . .
Question: seven of the 10 wealthiest American counties are located:
a) In San Francisco's suburbs
b) Between New York City and Greenwich, CT
c) In areas employing the most Fortune-100 executives
d) In the suburbs of Washington, D.C.
Before receiving the answer, ask yourself one additional question. Of the choices above, which should not be correct?
If you said D, then you accurately answered both.
Last year, I mentioned that Washington D.C. had displaced Silicon Valley as having the highest per capita income in the country. Adding insult to injury, D.C. has taken its place as the nation's wealthiest metropolitan statistical area.
In fact, the three wealthiest counties in the nation are in D.C. D.C. is also creating millionaires at the fourth-fastest pace in the nation.
While the rest of the country suffers through an agonizingly slow economic recovery, D.C. is booming. New construction. Neighborhoods. Restaurants.
In the U.S., there is perhaps no greater sign that an area has arrived than a shiny new Starbucks on the corner. Well, the three-mile stretch between DuPont Circle and the U.S. Capitol offers eighteen of them.
The disconnect between the nation and its capital has reached historically grotesque highs.
While Washington's unemployment rate sits at an admirable 5.3 percent, the rest of the nation is at 7.5. The U.S. the labor participation rate, which defines the percent of the working age population currently employed, sits at 63.5 percent. The lowest it has been in some years. The Carter years, actually.
While D.C. has witnessed a renaissance in Zagat-rated restaurants and fine dining, a record-high number of U.S. citizenry currently rely on food stamps.
While D.C.'s political denizens promised last November to create millions of new manufacturing jobs, the economic indexes show that manufacturing remains sluggish.
While one in six Americans worries about where his next meal is coming from, Washington, D.C. posts the nation's highest rate of fine wine consumption.
The native Americans who once inhabited the swamps of D.C. presciently named the local river the Potomac, translating to, "Where tributes are paid."
Must have been soothsayers. Those tributes have turned D.C. into the nation's only boomtown.
The U.S. has a history of such towns. Though all former boomtowns actually produced something. San Francisco had its gold rush. Abilene, Texas, its cattle boom. Silicon Valley, its technology. Wall Street and its financial engineering. Detroit and its automobiles. D.C. and its, uh, err, ability to extract taxpayer wealth?
Washington D.C. takes its wealth from the rest of the nation. Me, you, friends, family, colleagues and neighbors. Each of us pays regular financial tribute. All of which is consolidated in an area that was never meant to do more than provide a national defense, a level playing field, and protection from each other.
In fact, the founding fathers were so wary of a large, federal government that they deliberately created the constitution to keep the government divided and weak.
The states were meant to serve as sovereign regional governments. Legislators were originally chosen by state legislatures to serve as federal ambassadors. The House was designed to represent the people. Each state was given two senators, regardless of size.
Eventually, however, federal courts eliminated the states' ability to follow the example defined by the Constitution. Amended the Constitution to allow citizens in the population centers to vote their own representatives, effectively concentrating power in big cities.
Ever since, the electorate has been fleeced, manipulated and hornswoggled. A population better versed in Hollywood than healthcare has consistently fallen prey to greed, fear and loathing. Consistently attempted to vote itself another free meal. Consistently overlooked the facts for the fiction peddled by another salesman seeking office.
Cynical, but true.
D.C. has created the largest, wealthiest, most successful multi-level marketing business the world has ever known. The ones at the top make a fortune. The rest simply struggle.
Has it been lost on everyone that the only area of the country the federal government has consistently helped is the area in which its members live?
In D.C., incomes, standards or living and local amenities have skyrocketed. In the rest of the country? Each has declined.
Americans naively mock the graft and corruption in those Banana Republics we look down upon. At least in those nations the populations know they're being swindled.
Wake up, America. The situation here is no different, just worse.
The U.S. receives no outside financial assistance. So, what the federal government has is not kept from the public, it is taken from the public. The wealth is produced from within. Grabbed from the pockets of taxpayers.
Want to see where 25 percent or more of your wealth ends up? Visit D.C. Only, skip the Smithsonian and the memorials. Instead, take a cab out to the tony suburbs. Take in the 6,000 square foot McMansions. The multi-million dollar brownstones. The Porsche and Maserati dealerships. The new construction. Sparkling malls. Country clubs. Culinary venues.
No wonder our politicians work so hard to stay there. As the rest of the country talks of permanently lower standards of living, D.C. thrives.
F. Scott Fitzgerald famously wrote, "Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me. They think, deep in their hearts, that they are better than we are... Even when they enter deep into our world or sink below us, they still think that they are better than we are."
Well, today's Great Gatsby would have been a lobbyist. Living extravagantly among D.C.'s politicians. Consultants. Attorneys. Economists. Appointees. And everyone else who plays a role in consolidating the nation's power and wealth.
Art imitating life.
Imagine Jack Abramoff, played by George Clooney, being presented the Oscar by Michelle Obama, wearing Donna Karan, who's sitting next to Bill Clinton, who just returned from Africa with Angelina Jolie.
That could make the cover of People Magazine. Which might get our attention.

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